Dear SYTYCD Producers,
Here at PureSYTYCD, we’ve had several conversations lately about why ratings, Internet traffic and overall enthusiasm and discussion have been sinking season by season. Margaret says it can be traced to the infamous Fall season, Season 6, when our favorite show started changing swiftly and drastically. While some of the changes have been really amazing (All-Stars), some of them have been just dreadful (yes, I’m going to say it once again – the stage).
So Fox, Nigel, here are OUR pointers for how to fix the show (and readers, please, please add your own in the comments or tell us how you feel about ours and add your voice to the open letter).
1. Keep rotating judges and guest judges – just rotate Nigel right off the panel. We loved the guest judges this season (with the notable exceptions of Carmen Electra and Katie Holmes), especially the fact that we got a rotation of our favorite choreographers on the panel. We’ve learned that static judges are annoying, no matter who they are. Whether it was Nigel, Mary, Mia or Adam, we got tired of hearing the same voices when we already knew what they were going to say. Jean-Marc is a good (pervy) example of this on the Canadian show. However, Nigel almost never rotates out, so we’re extra tired of him. If you need guest judges to replace him, we’ll make ourselves available. Hey, why not? Fans of the show are good judges, considering the best of the celebrity guest judges were the ones who were clearly fans.
2. Speaking of Nigel, let’s talk about his producing style. While we can’t say we’ve ever produced a show and we can only imagine the numerous concerns involved, we get a little annoyed by Nigel’s heavy-handed pulling-the-puppet-strings style. While we admire that he’s always willing to try new things and some of those new things have really been excellent, the best producing is the kind that doesn’t draw attention to itself. Nigel keeps insisting on shoving the dancers and the show into this perfectly produced package. (Can we talk about how the judges kept the elimination after Top 10 and it was never acknowledged on the show? And how the girls were “beasts” slaying the boys THE WHOLE SEASON, probably to compensate for the Girl Slaughter of Season 7?) Melanie got dubbed America’s Favorite Dancer (by the judges) in the auditions and was never truly challenged or critiqued (by the judges) during the whole season. It could’ve cost Melanie the win she totally deserved if she hadn’t been so adorable and talented. We’re getting tired of Nigel deciding who’s going to win and then trying to make it so. Is it America’s Favorite Dancer or is it Nigel’s Favorite Dancer? Guess which show we’re not going to watch next season?
So how do we fix this, you might ask? John suggests that we need more charismatic dancers who are really good in one style and have to fight to conquer other styles (like Ivan and Russell, who won his season). Marianya says she misses seeing the dancers really challenged at the beginning of the show. Fans of SYTYCD love watching the unexpected partnership and the unexpected dancer struggle and then achieve, making themselves our favorites in the process.
Margaret: Part of what makes those first few weeks so interesting, besides watching partnerships that we really hook into (Melanie & Marko) is wondering how other dancers would work together. If Kayla & Max/Ashley & Kupono hadn’t been in the bottom during week 2 of season 5, Max & Ashley may not have been eliminated at the same time and we wouldn’t have gotten to see the surprisingly great partnership of Kayla & Kupono—which means we wouldn’t have gotten “Addiction” and it’s rated as one of the best numbers the show has ever had, rightly so.
So one way to fix this would be to go back to SYTYCD’s roots. We’ve had some of the most technically gifted dancers the last three seasons and sometimes we could hardly bring ourselves to care because while there was nothing “wrong” with a dancer or a routine, we just couldn’t get excited. This might mean more bad routines and bad dancing but will make us so grateful again for the truly transcendent moments. Which brings us to…
3. We need diversity in dance styles and choreographers. Doreana Sanchez is not the only person choreographing disco routines and Nakul dev Mahajan is not the only Bollywood choreographer. Go to Canada if you don’t believe me. What would happen if there were only one contemporary routine on any given show or maybe only one contemporary routine every few weeks? What if we HAD to depend on Afro Jazz, House, all of the Ballroom styles, Bollywood, Pas de Deux , etc. to fill in the episode?
And for diversity, we don’t even have to look any further than the other SYTYCD franchises. Canada and UK have phenomenal choreographers (and dancers!), as did Australia. Those are just the English-speaking franchises. What wonderful choreographers could we find if the producers imported from the Ukraine SYTYCD or the Turkish or Polish versions?
4. And speaking of one big happy family, why not create another Fall show, but make it different, perhaps a shorter super competition? What if we had SYTYCD SuperStars and all of the previous contestants from ALL of the franchises were eligible to come back and compete for the “World’s Favorite Dancer” title? Maybe this show is 2 episodes a week for only 4 weeks, just to make it special and so that it might not overlap with the World Series again? Dancers featured on SYTYCD don’t have a potential “product” like American Idol singers do when they release a cd, so anytime the producers can create a vehicle for these dancers that doesn’t overshadow the current cast, they’re helping create more of a career and presence for the dancers. The great thing about this idea is that it totally supports this next point…
5. Ditch the musical guests. Or ditch about 90% of them. Keep the 10% that are willing to use SYTYCD dancers for backup dancers (including the current cast! didn’t that happen one season?). Maybe the musical performances bring in money, or maybe you producers only think they do. The reality is, they usually suck and I’m only watching the dancers anyway. It’s like, on Dancing with the Stars, the ONLY reason I watch the musical performances is to catch the dancing that happens at the same time. I would MUCH RATHER see dance performances. It’d be a good time to show us alumni dancers re-dancing their iconic numbers as much more evolved dancers (think Kent and LoFro doing the prom number – it was only 8 months later and they’d already become such different dancers). Bring in performers from all the other SYTYCD franchises, like you did with UK’s recent winner Matt Flint. Pairing him with the all-too-soon-eliminated Nick and Jess in a tap routine that THEY choreographed? BRILLIANT. Easily one of the highlights of not just the finale, but of the season. Do it more. That’s the key to re-building your audience: when you do something we like, do it more. When you do something we don’t like, stop doing it.
6. Which means, bring back the smaller and more intimate stage. Season 8’s stage (or the camera work and lack of distracting backlights) was better than the Seasons 6 and 7 monstrosity, but only by a bit. Watching SYTYCD Canada reminds me of how amazing the original stage is and you really need to listen to us and bring it back. It was a big part of why we fell in love with the show and the Seasons 1-5 dancers. Do you know why? We were closer to them. There were more physical possibilities for the choreographers when it came to moving the dancers around the stage because it wasn’t a giant, uniform thing. When it comes down to it, the stage represents the entire SYTYCD producers vs SYTYCD audience disagreement. With this big uber stage (since S6), you are focusing on the package, the spectacle. The more intimate circle stage that we love and still mourn focuses on the dancers.
Margaret: I miss my stairs! There was something about the old stage and how it was round that made the dances feel like stories, not performances for an audience. We were able to get more closeups, feel the emotions, and the set was about enhancing the dancing, not enhancing the spectacle. My best example came from, oddly, the guy I think used the stage the best during his time with SYTYCD, Wade. With “Ruby Blue,” Brandon and Janette entered the story by popping up from behind a wall and coming down the stairs, and their ability to use the stage in that entrance played a major role in the believability of the movements. But, in Season 6, with the “inside Van Goh’s head” piece Wade did for Peter and Pauline, the ridiculous fractured painting that rotated and flipped on the projecting screen was super distracting and took away from what was actually a really well-danced piece, especially from Peter. It was a very cool routine and they danced it really well, but their technical success was overshadowed by the “overdoneness” of the set.
7. Instead of spending the money on the bigger stage and a lot of flash, we would rather that you spend the money to figure out how to release SYTYCD DVDs so we can re-watch our favorite seasons without resorting to YouTube and other means. There is a market for it, so figure it out. Whenever you focus on the dancers–current, alumni, International franchise dancers, whatever–you can’t go wrong with us. That’s the simple fact at the heart of the matter.
And now that we’ve critiqued you quite a lot, here’s a list of what we like and want you to keep.
1. The All-Stars – having them arrive at the Top 10 is the perfect marriage. Keep it up. Only, we want to see them re-dance their iconic routines and you missed a lot of opportunities to do this during Season 8. Fix that.
Margaret: Not only does this give us the chance to see dancers we love again, but use this as a way to plug their success. Allison & Ivan were All-Stars in the same week, how were they not asked to dance together?! Same with Chelsie & Mark! Those are two of the most successful partnerships, and some of the best personalities, the show has ever had, be proud of that, they are SYTYCD success to the highest degree.
2. The Meet the Top 20 performance – sheer genius. It’s been a highlight of each season you’ve done it. Especially since we get to see the dancers twice on the live show before anyone’s eliminated. Keep that.
3. We like the dancers you pick! We just want you to cut back on the contemporary/jazz and pick some dancers with different backgrounds. We want them to be challenged more and truly judged, all of them and fairly. And clearly they’re talented, because they’re going on to dance in movies, commercials, music videos, music tours, Broadway shows, Glee and DWTS.
Margaret: We also love underdogs, they’re fun to root for. Give us more Tads, Russells, Dominics, Jeanines, Evans, Nicks, even Lauren Froderman floundered her 1st week and was in danger of going home!
4. Cat is the one thing most of us can agree on. She smooths over the awkward moments and she uses her great sense of humor to keep things rolling. I love it when she gets to pick dances for the finale show.
Remember, no matter what, we love the show. We only want to like it again.
Sincerely (and xoxo),
SYTYCD Fans/PureSYTYCD writers
P.S. Sorry this is a little long – clearly we had a lot to say.